Thursday, January 11, 2007

More than one way

A line or two from Lynne

Our posts this week have been about the revision process. Each of us revises in our own unique way. As I read the posts from each member of my writers' group, I compared my process to theirs and realized I don't revise in just one way.

Whether writing non-fiction or fiction, I think in outlines. Though not a plotter, per se, I do think with structure in mind. Perhaps that's the parenting expert in me. I love all kinds of structure. When I write, I ask myself as I go, how does this scene move the plot forward? When revising, I use Carolyn See's method, What do I have? What do I need?

As I've examined my process for revising, I realize I have two distinct methods. My first method involves my work-in-progress. I always write, then read, then revise. One day I may write five pages, the next day I begin my writing time by rereading those five pages adding clarifying details. Since a good deal of my character development and fleshing out of plot lines happens away from my computer, it's necessary for me to add in all the nuance and subtlety that have come to me in between actual writing sessions. After the details have been added, I begin my writing for that day from where I left off.

So, I have my work-in-progress type of revising method, but now that I've completed my first novel, I can tell you I also have another kind of revision process when I have a finished draft. After I finished a draft of my novel, I would revise by literally starting at the beginning. I read the beginning scenes, adding in more setting and richer character details. I worked to make sure the characters who'd evolved by the end of the novel were consistent at the beginning of the novel. If I happened upon a scene that needed a good deal of rewriting, I rewrote it before moving to the next scene.

Each day I would begin again at the beginning and would do so day after day until I felt that there were no longer subtleties to add or plot threads to pull. When no more scents, colors, sounds and sights were necessary, I moved on. This may sound as if it took forever, but it didn't. For me about one third into my novel my characters become flesh and bone to me. I knew them as friends and their motives were instinctual to me. My process of editing became easier as my novel progressed.

I compare first draft writing to the art of sculpture. I write creating something from nothing. The words on the page revealing my vision, my creation. The process of revision to me is like painting. My job becomes adding color, texture, depth, and perspective. I love both processes, but they are quite different. I've started my second novel and the sculpting is quite different having written a novel before. I have a better grasp of my tools and the way to work the medium. As every artist knows, each sculpture, each painting--each novel is unique. There is no one way to create your masterpiece.


Patry Francis said...

Your sculpting metaphor feels spot-on to me. I'm also revising. At first, I was darting all over the place in response to suggestions from readers, which left me feeling crazy and lost. Then I went back and did as you're doing: slowly and methodically from beginning to end.

Lauri said...

I like this idea and the image of a sculptor too.